Lost in Translation: Fifty Shades Gets the Chinese Snip | Frankfurt Book Fair 2012

The Chinese book market is embracing foreign language titles from the USA, UK and Japan at a growing rate. Currently, 4% of all new titles in China are translations. The figures were revealed following yesterday’s 26th International Rights Directors’ Meeting at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2012. Wuping Zhao, Vice President of the Shanghai Translation Publishing House, spoke about the strength of the Chinese book market over the past ten years, but he also revealed some of the challenges facing publishers in the region when he mentioned E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey.
“For those who want to catch the global trends, there would be no hesitation to take part in bidding for blockbuster bestseller titles. The rights to the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey were bought by a publisher even before realising that the Chinese version could not be published without large amounts of deletions.”
Later, Gray Tan (Grayhawk Agency) explained to delegates that the Taiwan market would often publish an international bestseller before the Chinese edition.
“If a book is selling well in many countries, chances are it will be published in Taiwan ahead of mainland China, and it will work.”
Like the rest of the world, the amount of brick and mortar stores is in decline as print sales rapidly lose out to the growth of the e-book market and the trend toward online purchases. While on the surface the translation e-book market may look healthy, many published titles are still by authors with rights in the public domain. One of the biggest consumer growth areas in digital publishing in China is the mobile smartphone market.

Source of data: Frankfurt Book Fair Blog.

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